Friday, March 31, 2017

Count to 10

Radio Commentary

According to child behavior specialists, you would be surprised how much good can result when a parent counts to 10 before responding to a child, especially in a tense situation.
When such a situation arises, pause. Don’t react. Don’t say anything. Avoid making any immediate threats, judgments, or punishments. Just wait, and give yourself 10 seconds to process the situation.
The space created by that pause will help you think about your response, and will lessen the likelihood of a “misfire” on your part that could compound the problem.
It is not uncommon for parents who are quick on the trigger to regret what came out in that first rush of reaction.
 Hasty judgments, harsh consequences, or dire threats are very hard to take back once they’ve been delivered.
For that reason, it is far better to head them off before they are said out loud.
 The simple act of pausing and counting to 10 can buy the time necessary to react more appropriately.
A pause can help a parent get closer to a response that is deliberate and wise.
So take a breath, count to 10, and use that time to think through what you really want to say and how you really want to react. It will make most situations much easier to handle.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Reducing stress

Radio Commentary

Children cope better with stress in their lives when they don’t feel helpless. So teach them how to care for themselves and assume more family responsibility as they grow up. 
Show them how to balance chores and play. Help them plan schedules that are realistic. Show them the importance of adequate rest and proper nutrition. These precautions help prevent stress from erupting in the first place.
Encourage your children to ask for help when they need it, analyze problems as they arise, and plan alternatives for coping.
It’s been demonstrated that children who enjoy learning have good defenses against stress, so encourage your children to do their best in school. 
But remember that too much academic pressure is a chief cause of childhood stress, so don’t go overboard.
If your child is having a problem at school, support the school’s effort to correct the problem. 
Confide in your child’s teachers and principal if you sense there is a problem with stress.
These professionals are trained to integrate coping skills into classroom activities like group discussions, role-playing, films and problem-solving exercises.
Keeping in touch with your child’s school is an important safeguard against stress.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Public funding for schools

Radio Commentary

Early in our nation’s history, some taxpayers accepted the principle of public schooling but balked at government funding of schools.
The early proponents of public schools won the discussion by making some strong points: 
They asserted that the education of all children is a vital public interest and, more to the point, a shared responsibility.
They believed that public funding was critical to give schools a consistent base of support and make them accountable to the American people.
These early advocates also felt that public funding would lessen inequities in education and that it would help ensure a basic level of quality among all schools.
In 1903, the civil rights leader W. E. B. Du - BOYS wrote:
“Education and work are the levers to uplift a people. Work alone will not do it, unless inspired by the right ideals and guided by intelligence. Education must not simply teach work – it must teach Life.”
These points formed the strong basis for public schooling that endures to this day. Consistent public funding and a shared responsibility for educating all of our children must always remain core values.

Helping children relate

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

From coast to coast and around the globe, one of the most common questions parents ask children is, “What did you do at school today?” A very common frustration we hear voiced by parents is that their children invariably respond with “Nothing,” or “I don’t know,” or “I don’t remember.”
It’s hard to deal with because parents truly want to know the answer. They are very much interested in what goes on inside and outside the classroom — what their children are learning and what kinds of interactions they are having with other students.
Through the years, parents have gotten creative. Some give their children time to relax and “decompress” after school before asking questions, hoping that the space will provide the respite needed to prime the pump.
Others have changed that initial question to one that seems more promising to start the conversation. They ask open-ended things like, “How was your day?” or “Who made you laugh today?” or “What games did you play at recess?” Other variations include, “What was the best thing that happened today,” or its converse, “What was the hardest thing that happened today?” These questions are met with varying degrees of success.
Sara Ackerman, a parent and teacher, recently wrote an article in the Washington Post about a technique that finally worked with her own young daughter. She flipped the script and asked, “Do you want to hear about my day?”
Her daughter said yes and Ackerman then launched into a tale of meetings and photocopying, jammed printers, lost keys, and funny comments from colleagues.
It worked. Her daughter then took her turn telling her about the day that just ended.
Said Ackerman, “I think my daughter is most interested in unveiling the mystery of what I do when I’m not with her.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a bus driver, or a stay-at-home parent, because it’s not about the minutiae of the work,” she said. “It’s about sharing what makes us laugh and what bores us, the mistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet.”
Parents sometimes forget that the skill involved in relating an experience is not simple or innate. Children need to learn how to do it. The best way for them to learn is to see how others do it and then imitate the behavior. Parents can be the best models of all for this purpose.
As Ackerman acknowledged, work is often the last thing parents want to talk about when they get home. They think that a listing of the day’s details would bore anyone with a pulse, especially a young person. Maybe the child feels the same way. That’s why the game of sharing can be so effective.
Every child is different and each needs a different approach, so this technique is certainly not for everyone. But it’s worth a try in households where young children seem reluctant or unable to relate the details of their day. Sharing and modeling are easy ways for parents to help children learn how to relate, and it’s a skill that could prove useful over a lifetime.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Firearms at home

Radio Commentary

More than 22 million U.S. children live in homes with firearms. 
In 43 percent of those homes, the guns are not locked up or fitted with trigger locks, according to a national survey. 
The study, reported in the "American Journal of Public Health," analyzed gun storage practices in six thousand nine hundred households with children.
The study found that nine percent of homes kept firearms unlocked, and loaded. Those homes represent 1.7 million children. 
Another 4 percent of the homes have guns that are unlocked and have ammunition nearby. 
That means that about 2.6 million homes had firearms stored in a way most accessible to children.
Researchers found that many parents know guns should be locked up but there is a disconnect between knowledge and action. 
They may think the top shelf of a closet or a sock drawer is secure. But children are notoriously curious and may find them anyway. 
Experts say parents should look at their own firearm storage and also ask pointed questions about weapons at their friends' homes as well.
This is one area where it’s not possible to be too cautious.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Innovations in Education (April 2017)

UCSB Chemistry Lab

Cirone on Schools

Jake Kalkowski
Santa Ynez Valley High School

Talking with Teachers with Bill Cirone

Carrie Padfield
Solvang School

Schools of Thought with Bill Cirone

Kitty Balay

Local Leaders with Bill Cirone

Luke Ontiveros
Santa Maria-Bonita School District

Innovations in Education (March 2017)

La Honda STEAM Academy
Music Van

Joy of reading

Radio Commentary

Columbia University professor Lucy Calkins inspired a generation of teachers to help young children become better readers.
One of her books is a parents’ guide to raising lifelong learners, and it offers some very good advice.
Her basic counsel is that good things come to those who read. If children read avidly and read a lot, they will write better, spell better, they will know more, and they will care more.
For parents, it is critical not only to support reading, but also to do it the appropriate way.
She paints two different pictures to illustrate her point. In the first scenario, the parent asks a child arriving home from school if she has any homework. The child says, “Yes, I need to read.”
The parent says, “It’s good to get your homework done right away. Why don’t you go to your room, sit at your desk, and do your reading? It really matters. That’s how you get ahead — by reading.”
That’s one way to support reading. Here’s another: The parent greets the child by saying, “You’ve had a really long day at school. I bet you’re ready for time to rest and snuggle. Why don’t we each get our books and read here on the sofa? I’m in the middle of mine now.”
The professor says that while both approaches support reading, the second conveys the message that reading is one of life’s great gifts.
And that can make all the difference.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Inexpensive toys

Radio Commentary

Parents on a budget should not worry about buying expensive toys. Children learn just as well — and maybe even better — when they play with household items and simple toys. The trick is to see things “through a child’s eyes.”
Don’t throw away empty paper towel tubes. Four-year-olds love to look and talk through them.
A stack of discarded envelopes can be just the thing for playing “office.” And an old purse may be ideal for toting a child’s treasures.
Children love to use paint, crayons, pencils, and chalk to scribble or practice drawing. Cookie dough and clay are great for making sculptures, letters, and shapes. 
Other free or inexpensive things that children love to play and learn with include:
     Aluminum pie tins
     Wooden spoons
     Balls of all sizes (except those small enough to swallow)
     Measuring spoons and cups
     Blocks that stack or fit together
     Plastic dishes
     Old clothes for dress-up
     And boxes galore.
Children can play with simple toys in many ways. The best part is that there’s no one right way.
Exploring different ways to play with a toy helps children be creative and solve problems. These are useful skills for school success.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Role models

Radio Commentary

A study shows that stress from school hits students hard at all ages and grade levels.
In the study, students named more than 300 stress factors they felt at school. The number one stress was schoolwork itself. 
Contrary to myth, most students work hard at school and want to do well. Having difficulty can cause a great deal of stress.
More girls than boys cited social stresses, and peer pressure about their appearance. More boys than girls said they felt anxious about discipline. This dovetails with studies that show more boys are disciplined than girls.
Also listed were stresses ranging from riding the bus to preparing for a career.
Clearly, no student can lead a stress-free life — plus, that would be terrible preparation for the real world. But we know that an overload of stress can cause physical and emotional problems that compound the situation.
 For this reason, it is a good idea to reduce some of the stress in children’s lives. Methods include using alternative forms of discipline and increasing cooperative activities.
It’s also critical to understand that each child is different, and matures at a different rate.
This knowledge prevents us from creating a one-size-fits-all situation where deviations from the norm create an additional form of undue stress.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Building motor skills

Radio Commentary

Children’s work is play. Much is learned through simple games and activities. In fact, play is important in helping children build basic motor skills like running, jumping, throwing, and catching.
Play helps build muscles and aerobic capacity in young bodies. It allows children to release energy and tensions.
Play also teaches social skills. It can increase self-esteem, help strengthen and build attention spans, and improve physical coordination.
To help your child develop basic motor skills during playtime you might consider the following activities:
Use bright, colorful balls when playing ball games because these are easy for children’s eyes to follow.
It helps keep their attention and makes it easier for their eyes to follow the motion.
Use slow, consistent pitches when tossing to your child. Practice makes perfect — for them and for you!
Practice the same skill in different ways to keep your child interested. Run races today. Play tag tomorrow. The skills are the same but the game seems very different. This helps prevent boredom or distraction.
Give brief instructions that are easy to follow, like “Watch the ball.” Long-winded explanations about why it’s important to watch the ball can lead a child’s mind to wander.
Remember that children tire easily, so keep periods of vigorous activity short. When children are young, it’s always better to schedule several short activities rather than one long one.
It helps keep you fresh as well.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thinking ahead

Radio Commentary

Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to anticipate it and head it off in the first place. It’s a skill that involves foresight and anticipation.
To help your teens develop these traits, bring up a situation that worries you and ask what they would do in that circumstance.
Listen carefully to their reactions. Treat their opinions with respect. Make suggestions, but avoid the temptation to lecture. That rarely works.
If you disagree with the approach that your teen has provided, ask her to consider alternative actions. Discuss different ways of reacting to a peer pressure situation.
Talk about the benefits and consequences of various alternatives. Have your teen figure out the best course of action based upon those consequences.
Leave the discussion open for further consideration, and make clear that you are always available to help clarify matters or offer suggestions.
If you don’t appear to be lecturing or judging, your teen is more likely to take you up on that offer.
The goal is to help your child think through issues calmly — not to force your opinion or get a reluctant promise.
Considering options in advance can head off problems before they arise and give your children the tools they need to react in a positive and productive way.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Science skills

Radio Commentary

The principles of science form an umbrella over almost everything we do. Many educators feel that science is also one of the most innately interesting subject areas for children.  
But sometimes a sheer love of science can get bogged down in the details of memorization of abstract concepts.
To help your child develop an interest in science, try these tips:
  Discuss family eating habits in terms of how the body uses various kinds of food. The body can be viewed as a machine, and food as the fuel.
  After you have removed all electrical cords, encourage children to tinker with old clocks or broken appliances to see what makes them “tick”  
  Try to hide any distaste you might have for your child’s interest in insects, scummy water, and other unappetizing aspects of nature. 
Children often find these natural items fascinating and should be encouraged to learn about their environment.
  Demonstrate scientific thinking by challenging general statements with the question, “How do you know that’s true?” It helps children understand the difference between opinion and fact.
  Encourage any interest in collecting rocks, leaves, shells, or other natural objects. Provide a place to display and observe the collections.
Explore the many opportunities for science-related outings in our own county, so you can make learning a fun family affair.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Listening ladder

Radio Commentary

Listening is a critical skill for success. It is often in short supply, which makes it all the more valuable.
In fact, becoming a better listener is beneficial to anyone who wants to communicate effectively.
Listening well helps build stronger relationships, and is useful in resolving disputes. Most importantly, listening is the key to acquiring knowledge.
Here are six steps that can help anyone become a more skilled listener and climb the ladder of success. The six steps spell out
For “L”: Look at the person you are speaking to.
For “A”: Ask questions to make sure you understand.
For “D”: Don’t interrupt.
For the next “D”: Don’t change the subject.
For “E”: Empathize with the speaker. Try to feel what they are feeling.
For “R”: Respond verbally and nonverbally, with nods, smiles, and spoken responses.
Going through these steps can help anyone become a better listener, and for students this is an especially helpful tool.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Accountability, transparency, and continuous improvement

By Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

“Knowledge is power,” Francis Bacon once said. The California Department of Education, as part of its commitment to continuous improvement, accountability, and transparency, has been developing a dashboard to help educators, parents, and communities across the state access important information about K-12 districts and schools.

You might ask, why a dashboard and how does that relate to “knowledge is power?” Think of it this way: You can’t drive a car by only watching the speedometer. You also keep your eye on the road, check the mirrors, monitor the gas tank, and pay attention if the engine light comes on. Similarly, the California School Dashboard features easy-to-read reports on multiple measures of school success, including test scores, graduation rates, English learner progress, and suspension rates. The Dashboard is part of California’s new school accountability system, which recognizes California’s future success depends on tapping into the potential of all students, so they graduate ready for college, careers, and life. For schools to reach this goal, teachers, parents and the community need clear and useful measures of progress.

In the past, accountability systems for districts and schools relied solely on test scores. But one test taken on one particular day doesn’t provide a complete picture of all the ways schools are helping students succeed. The focus on multiple measures will help all districts target areas to grow and improve.

Further, highlighting different aspects of student performance in an easy to digest way will give a more complete and understandable picture of a school’s progress. The Dashboard also reports on growth to show a school’s trajectory over time, while helping districts see disparities in achievement across various groups of students or schools.

As an accountability tool, the Dashboard will also help the state identify schools, including charter schools, and districts needing targeted assistance.

The Dashboard is a work in progress, and metrics and reports will be added over time. It recognizes that the exciting and institutional changes taking place in education will take time to fully implement, and requires an ongoing conversation with our community on both how we’re doing and how we can do better.

To assist in those conversations, the Dashboard is being designed as a transparency tool so parents and community members can sit in the driver’s seat looking at a dashboard that provides the multiple indicators needed to be fully participating partners.

I applaud the California Department of Education and school districts for their continued and strong commitment to a series of shifts in public education that has raised the bar for student learning, transformed testing, and places the focus on equity for all students.

As businessman Donald Bren said, “Future public education will require involvement and collaboration among various local, civic, private and non-profit entities, a concept referred to as community entrepreneurship.” The Dashboard is a tool that enables and strengthens that partnership and
entrepreneurship on behalf of our children.

Using time well

Radio Commentary

No matter how busy parents are, there are things they can do to help their children succeed in school.
To start, it’s important to organize your time. Try to plan work and activities around school and practice schedules.
Also plan to do a few things at once. For example a child could start doing homework in the car while the family is waiting for an older sibling to get out of school. 
The car is also a quiet place where parents and children can talk together uninterrupted.
It’s also a good idea to find other people to help. A babysitter can sometimes help with homework. Grandparents who live nearby can often lend a hand with carpooling.
Friends and neighbors are often willing to trade services and pitch in when needed.
Alternative scheduling can also make a big difference. Though many parents check homework at night, it sometimes works better for parents to do it in the morning, while a child is eating breakfast.
If work schedules make it possible to have only a quick dinner in the evenings, try to compensate in the mornings with a big, hot breakfast.
Also remember that weekend schedules can make up for weekday shortfalls. 
And finally, it’s a good idea to figure out a way to help at school even if your work schedule is complicated.
Be flexible and creative. But find ways to stay involved.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sleep for teens

Radio Commentary

For years parents and educators have known that many teens do not get enough sleep to meet their health needs. Now there is a new culprit: their smart phones.
Parents may be unaware that many teens sleep with their smart phones by their side, answering calls or text messaging throughout the night.
Research has documented that, on average, teenagers have traditionally gotten about two hours less sleep every night than they need. This increases their risk of accidents and makes them moody.
In the past, this was caused by teens generally staying up too late and waking too early for the needs of their bodies. But these figures were calculated BEFORE the prevalence of smart phones.
According to research, teen bodies need nine hours and fifteen minutes of sleep per night. Prior to the advent of smart phones as bedmates, teens were getting an average of only seven hours of sleep per night. Now the numbers are far lower.
And fitful sleep, in short bursts, is not as healthful as uninterrupted sleep, so the health implications are far more grave than ever.
For example, of the estimated 100,000 car crashes a year linked to drowsy driving, almost half involve drivers age 16-24, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. What’s more, like all of us, teens get more emotional when they are sleep-deprived.
The best thing a parent can do to help teens get the sleep they need is to make sure there is no smart phone by their side when they go to bed. Period. Turn it off and take it away. It’s good parenting.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Children need consistency

Radio Commentary

Children need consistency. They thrive on routines and consistent responses. It helps bring order to their world in a way they can handle.
Children are also more likely to listen when they can anticipate the responses they will receive from their parents.
Being consistent with discipline is especially important. And it’s critically important for both parents to be on the same page with discipline, whether they live in the same household or not.
For this reason, parents should agree together on the disciplinary techniques they will use, and when they will be called into play.
If you disagree, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance to help mediate these differences, because they are important for the sake of the children involved.
In fact, professional assistance, when needed, creates a safe space for discussing these issues, which works to everyone’s advantage.
It’s a rare parent who has never felt embarrassed, frustrated, or angry by their child’s behavior at one time or another. Having both parents react the same way, or use the same disciplinary techniques, helps a child understand boundaries and consequences.
The goal is to raise a happy and healthy child, who understands there are limits in the world, and very specific consequences if those limits are reached.
Having both parents approach these issues in a consistent way creates an environment where children can thrive — and that’s the bottom line for all of us.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Talk to your child

Radio Commentary

Books, magazines, and talk show hosts all bombard parents with advice on how best to raise their children. But there is simply no substitute for a caring adult who spends quality time with a child. 
Children pick up language skills and knowledge about the world around them during interesting conversations with responsible adults in their lives.
In daily life, parents can help by pointing out and reading printed words that appear in a child’s environment — signs on storefronts, labels on jars, and titles of television shows. 
Even toddlers can share in making grocery lists and checking them off at the store as each item is found. 
Above all, talk to your child whenever possible. There is no substitute for a focused, interactive conversation between children and trusted adults.
Parents can sing songs and tell stories whenever the opportunity arises. The rhythms and sounds of language fascinate children and lead to future learning.
That’s why children love nursery rhymes, though the actual words can seem to make little sense to adults.
It’s the sounds of the language and the word-play that children find so appealing, and it gets imbedded in their consciousness. In a very real sense, language is like music to a child’s ears.